Friday, October 26, 2012

We're Almost Home

I’ve always had lofty goals. For this, our fourth building season, I hoped to have the plaster work totally completed - the entire house as well as the garage. We are close.

Here you can see Scott and Jerry working on exterior plaster.

Next summer, the fifth and, one can only hope, last building season, we will put the final coats of plaster on the exterior of the house and all of the garage. That means finish work and landscaping are all that remain.

It’s almost time to call Torrey home.

The Help

Finish plaster. Finish plaster. Finish plaster. This was the mantra of the summer. Now that fall has arrived, I keep walking from room to room in order to convince myself that it really is true. The interior plaster is completely finished. And, thanks to Scott’s experiments and ultimate successes in creating the perfect color palette, the walls are even painted.

Scott's Work Station

Looking From Scott's Work Station to the Storage Area

Looking from the Storage Area to Scott's Work Station
It wouldn’t have been possible without Cali and Jerry. In June, when they arrived in Torrey, they had just completed a straw bale internship at Community Rebuilds in Moab. After an entire summer of day-in and day-out plaster work, they have become true plaster artists.

Cali and Her Last Tree
Jerry's Last Day - Exterior Plaster
Artists always sign their work.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Home Depot Treasure

When we moved Dad’s table saw and joiner to Torrey, we realized we now had the tools to turn the wood left over from timber frame construction into window and door trim. Even though this do-it-yourself capability extends our building timeline, it also helps us achieve a goal of minimal construction waste. It also allows us to match wood types to the rest of our house.

Door and windows before stain
Door and windows after stain
Looking the other direction

However, one day, on a field trip to Home Depot, we perused the millwork aisle to get more ideas. Despite our own milling capabilities, we couldn’t say no to the beautiful vine and ivy pattern we saw. It will grace our interior walls as door trim and baseboards. The green man corner block came from Heartwood Carving.

A Little Help From Our Friends

When Bryan and Jean showed up in Torrey, three times now, it felt as though the Lone Ranger had arrived. But instead of a horse named Silver, he was riding a motorcycle and there were two of him. During their first visit, Jean used her extensive family finance Ph.D. skills to cut burlap. This we attached to the timber frame in order to prevent cracks from developing between the wood posts and the plaster walls. Bryan exercised his previous building experiences installing the sheathing on the south bump out. This sheathing would eventually contain our icynene insulation.

The second time they arrived, they spent their energies painting interior walls, scrubbing plaster from interior posts, wiring outlets, attaching switch and outlet plates, and hanging sheet rock in the kitchen.

Last weekend, once again, they wielded brushes and painted the bedroom closet walls. In addition, they initiated our newly installed shower, and they spirited Scott away from the job site for a hike to a local petroglyph site.

Once again, Scott and I continue to be the beneficiaries of the generosity of friends.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Doug's Shower

Building a straw bale house, no matter the size, is most easily accomplished as a joint venture. We have been lucky in this regard. In the form of finance, consultation, problem-solving, sweat, blood, laughter and encouragement, our parents, family, architect, neighbors and friends have all lent their support.

When it comes right down to it, our house is more theirs than ours. This could not be more true than when it comes to Shanna and Doug, Scott’s sister and her husband. For the third building season in a row, they have left their boat in Europe and spent the entire summer with us at “construction boot camp” in Torrey.

Beyond the work, one of the greatest challenges has always been getting clean everyday. At the end of the first bui lding season, we celebrated when we finally had a toilet and a sink in the garage. That meant we no longer had to drive one mile to the nearest restroom. But the next summer, when we were covered with straw and mud, nobody was smiling when we found ourselves bathing in cold water in that tiny sink.

We resorted to a camping sun shower, which worked perfectly...when the sun was shining. However, contrary to what most folks might guess, Torrey has a monsoon season, and, for Doug and Shanna’s first two summers with us, there were more rainy days than sunny ones. After his last tepid shower last season, Doug declared that he wouldn’t return until we had a real shower with reliable and unlimited hot water.

While Scott and I did our best to get that shower for Doug, the best we could come up with was a shower base, shower fixtures and a shower tent. And, even though the ambiance left something to be desired, at the beginning of this summer’s building season, we had what we hoped Doug would accept as a real shower.

From June to August, this proved to be satisfactory, but, with only two weeks to go until Shanna and Doug were to return to Europe, we dismantled the makeshift arrangement and went to work on the shower tile. We made several trips to Home Depot in Richfield, purchased all of necessary supplies, and Doug and Shanna went to work. All the while, Doug declared that he was no tile expert, but a beautiful shower was completed the day they left Torrey. And last Wednesday, when Mike and Blair from Jones Paint and Glass in Cedar City installed the glass for the shower, they signed our house register with, “It is always a pleasure to install a shower on a perfect tile job.”

This is yet another part of our house that belongs to Doug and Shanna.

An Homage To Trees

In the four years Scott and I have been building this house, we have also been planting trees: fifteen cottonwoods, five blue spruces, five apple trees, two cherries, one plum, four lindens, two peaches, two apricots, five walnuts and two willows, We have plans for others - red buds, green ash, big-tooth maples, mountain ash -  but we need to finish the exterior plaster and grade the ground around the house before anything more can be planted.

Much of this “reforestation” could be called mitigation for the douglas fir and ponderosa pine that were once standing in neighboring forests. And, even though those trees had already been killed by insects and fire before they found themselves resurrected as the posts and beams supporting our house, it seemed appropriate to recognize the origins of our home’s framework.

This is a beauty of straw bale. Any metaphor one might wish to create, can be written in the details of the finish plaster. Thus, we are surrounded by trees outside and in, an homage to trees...

Entryway Tree
Bedroom Tree
Office Door Tree
Office Bathroom Tree